Aya Hijazi

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Aya Hijazi
BornAya Hijazi
(1987-01-23) 23 January 1987 (age 31)
EducationConflict Resolution
Alma materGeorge Mason University
Known forBelady Foundation for Street Children, Imprisonment in Egypt 2014-2017
Spouse(s)Mohamed Hassanein

Born to an Egyptian mother and a Lebanese father, Aya Hijazi (sometimes reported as Hegazy, Higazi, or other variants; Arabic: آية حجازي‎), an American citizen, became interested in social activism. To further her understanding of social justice, she studied Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in the United States and law at Cairo University in Egypt.[1] During the Arab Spring, she returned to her native homeland, Egypt, along with her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, to establish a non-governmental organization (NGO), “Belady”, an island for humanity.

Belady became a symbolic island that unified people from all walks of life, allowing them to work towards the betterment of society. Belady focused on children and youth - one of Belady’s main projects was helping street children who would otherwise fall through the cracks. Working on such projects fostered a sense of community while developing life skills within the children and the volunteers.

Arrest and Imprisonment[edit]

On May 1, 2014, police forces raided Belady and arrested Aya, her husband, Mohamed, and two other Belady members. Three months later, the police made three other arrests. For nearly three years, seven individuals were imprisoned under false charges that included human trafficking, kidnapping, and rape.

NGOs and public figures from Egypt and around the world pressed for the release of Aya, her husband, and the Belady members. The case took a turning point when Aya’s college friend, Chelsea Cowan, successfully lobbied congressmen and senators, bringing attention to her case. As a result, Hillary Clinton made it a highlight in her presidential election campaign and President Trump pressed for the release of Aya and the other defendants.[2]

On April 16, 2017, the Egyptian court found Aya and all Belady members innocent of all charges. Two days after their release, Dina Powell (U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy to President Donald Trump) flew with Aya and her husband in a private plane to the United States; President Trump, along with his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, welcomed her to the White House and celebrated her release.

Aya’s case highlights Egypt’s crackdown on civil society, police corruption, the fabrication of criminal cases, and the abuse of pretrial detention and its use as a political tool to suppress any opposition.

Post Release[edit]

Aya currently resides in Washington D.C. where she is currently working on expanding Belady and saving the dreams of the most vulnerable children from her D.C. office. Her efforts are now geared on working towards the release of child political prisoners in Egypt. She plans to establish islands of humanity throughout the Middle East and other conflict zones. [3][4]


  1. ^ "How Egypt's most famous jailed couple celebrated Valentine's Day". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-08-20.
  2. ^ CNN, Tamara Qiblawi. "Egyptian-American acquitted after 3 years behind bars". CNN. Retrieved 2017-08-20.
  3. ^ "Trump welcomes freed US-Egypt prisoner Aya Hijazi to White House". BBC News. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Transcript of AP interview with Trump". AP News. Retrieved 25 April 2017.